Ultimate SEO Audit Template
For Local, National, Or E-commerce Websites
A New Breed Of SEO Audit Template
In order to find out why you’re not getting results, it’s necessary to perform an SEO audit that will reveal all the shortcomings related to the website and provide actionable answers.
This SEO audit template was created as an answer to all of the poor templates out there that don’t deliver in terms of UX or information provided to the client. It clearly outlines the website’s status with graphs and interactive text.
It was designed as a teaching tool for my SEO coaching clients, but even experienced SEOs benefit from it. It provides a ton of easily digestible information for the client receiving the audit.
Why You’ll Love This Audit Template
If you present with a template, you want it to look good enough to show the client and easy for them to understand. If not, you may be out of luck getting further business from them.
An Audit Checklist That Teaches
The template is not only a guide to make sure you’re thorough, but it provides valuable information on nearly all the tasks to help you understand how they can help.
Convenience & Speed
It’s designed to be fast. Most websites can be done in under a few hours, depending on how much other information you provide. If mapping technical SEO issues, it may take longer.
Tools To Help
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider
- This free crawler will help you find all the pages on the website and reveal most of the technical errors during your SEO audit.
- A great tool for a lot of reasons, but in this case we’ll just be using it to gather the basic backlink and traffic information for the beginning of the audit. This will show the client how they stand up against their competitors in those areas.
- Google Search Console
- Search Console can provide a lot of information about the health of the site and a few of the things you’ll need for this SEO audit.
- Google Analytics
- We mainly just want to make sure everything is correctly setup including conversion tracking, connection to search console, and site search.
- Whitespark Local Citation Finder
- You’ll just need the free account for this if you’re doing a basic audit to determine how many citations they have. If you’d like to dive deeper, you may want to consider purchasing.
- Moz Local
- Not a full comprehensive list of all the problems, but if you’re trying to keep costs down, it’s an easy and free way to check for inconsistencies or missing local profiles. If you’re paying for whitespark, there’s no need for this tool.
- Speed, speed, speed. It’s all the rage, especially with the new chrome update coming out. This tool will help you find everything that is keeping the site from running fast.
- This tool will help you find all the duplicate content on the site.
- We will use this tool to determine if there are social channels and related strategies the competitors are targeting that the client is not.
- Your Powers of Observation
- Unfortunately, there’s no link to this tool – it must come organically.
Creator Of The Ultimate Audit Template
Chris Cudmore is the founder of Relative Digital Marketing. He is an experienced digital marketer and SEO expert who is committed to teaching the craft, as well as debunking bad practices that either don’t have an effect or can negatively affect search rankings and traffic.
Audit Checklist Overview
With over 150 audit points, this SEO audit checklist provides everything you need to be successful at auditing a website. It will provide all the information you need to impress users and satisfy search engines.
The SEO template is a Google sheet with several tabs ready to be filled with your analysis. Each task has a note attached to it with information to help explain why it’s important.
When conducting SEO audits, it may require more tabs to be created if you are mapping the issues for a client or yourself.
The template audits the following general areas:
- Local SEO (Google My Business & Bing)
- User Experience (Basic)
- Page Speed Analysis
- Site Essentials
- Indexation Issues
- CTR Optimization
- Site Architecture
- Technical Issues
- Content Issues
- Structured Data
- Social Media Activity
- Google Search Console Review
- Google Analytics Review
- Competitor Channel Analysis
Using The SEO Audit Checklist
Check The Boxes That Do Not Need Work
If an issue looks like it’s correct or optimized, click on the box next to the task to add a green checkmark to signify the task is good.
Checking the box will dim and cross off the task as well as updating the total SEO score. Sometimes it will also update the graph to the right.
Where There Are Numbers, Fill Them Out
Throughout the SEO template, you’ll see numbers next to the checkboxes. Fill them out with the correct information in order to update the graphs to the right. It may also update the text on the right depending on the input.
Use Buttons For Resources & Tools
I wanted to create buttons to resources and tools to help with performing the SEO audit or help with the implementation afterward. It was quite a challenge to figure out how to trigger an HTTP request from a Google Sheet image, but I did it (lots of code). Unfortunately, it does require authorization from your google account to open external links to these resources.
The first time you use a button, it will take approximately 15-20 seconds to run the script. A popup will appear to request authorization, just click continue.
Next, you’ll need to select the Google account you’re authorizing and click allow.
If it gives another warning, just click on “Advanced” and allow it there.
You won’t have to do this again for any of the other buttons on the sheet. It’s just a one-time authorization.
If you create another copy of the sheet, you will have to authorize the new copy.
Hover For More Information
Hovering over most of the tasks wil provide you with more information about it, including how it can impact SEO or how to perform the task.
This can be helpful for those new to SEO or to help the client understand what it all means.
Performing The Audit
Section 1: Direct Competitors Overview
Aside from the name of the competitors, the information for this section of the SEO audit template comes directly from ahrefs Site Explorer (you can also use SEMrush). Its purpose is to give the client an overview of where they stand against their competitors in terms of backlinks, ranking keywords, and organic traffic. It’s best to pick direct competitors who exceed the performance of the client.
Add the names to the competitors on the left of the graph and the URLs to the right of the graph.
To the right of the graph beyond the URLs, you’ll see a place to input the numbers for each competitor, including domain rank (or domain authority), backlinks, referring domains, organic keywords, and organic traffic. Adding the numbers will update the graph and give you and the client perspective on what you’re up against.
Section 2: Local – Google My Business
Sections 2, 3, and 4 are primarily for local businesses. If the client does not focus on local, you can either remove the sections from the template or just mark them all as good.
Focus on what you’re seeing in their Google My business profile. Does it appear they have all of their information filled out? Is it correct and consistent with the website?
Google the primary keyword for the site and check at least the 3 highest-ranking businesses in the local pack. How many reviews to do they have? Fill out the “Should have at least” with the number that makes the most sense for the niche based on what the competitors are doing. A good practice is to aim a little high. As a best practice, I use 50 as a minimum.
The task list in this section is pretty self-explanatory. You may want to get access to their GMB if possible to check a couple of these.
You’ll also want to take note of the business name, address, and phone number. You’ll want to check the information against the citations later in the audit. You can just type it next to the “Physical address” task.
The “Get Custom Review Link” button takes you to a site where you can generate a link for the client that they can give to their customers. When the customer clicks the link, it will take them straight to the review popup to make it easier for them to leave one. It can be texted or emailed to the customer once you’ve asked them for a review. Customers are 70% more likely to leave a review if you ask them in person.
Section 3: Local – Bing Places For Business
I know Bing doesn’t seem significant enough to worry about, but they still get up to 20% of the search market share, so the Bing Places For Business profile should also be completely filled out and matching that of Google My Business.
Navigate to bing.com and search for the business. Look for a tiny link at the bottom of the business profile that says, “Is this your business?” If it’s there, it has not been claimed.
Section 4: Local – Citations
Citations are mentions of the business name, address, phone number, and website anywhere across the web. In particular, we’re talking about business listings, directories, social profiles, etc.
The important things we need to find out about these profiles:
1. How many citations are there?
- The amount you need may depend on how many the top-ranking competition has. But you should probably shoot for 100+ regardless. You’ll typically only get a portion of them indexed anyway.
2. Are they complete?
- Each profile needs to be completed as much as possible with all the information that can be provided.
3. Are they consistent?
- It’s crucial that the name, address. and phone numbers match everywhere on the web. That includes not using “street” where you use “st.” in other places. Everything must be exact. Inconsistencies lower trust with Google and other search engines.
Locating the Citations
The easiest way to locate all of the citations is with a tool like Whitespark. If you don’t possess a subscription for it or any other citation audit tools, you can get the number of citations with a free account by using the “Citation Finder” tool, then navigating to the “Business Search” tab and entering the information for the business.
Make sure you check a few of the top-ranking competition to find out how many they have as well.
You can also use Moz Local’s citation search to look for inconsistencies in the main indexing platforms. You can find the tool linked above with all the others.
Section 5: User Experience
This section of the audit checklist touches on how users might feel about the site on first impressions.
Put yourself in the shoes of a visitor on the site for the first time looking for a service or product. Grade honestly on your initial impression of the site and how easy it is to navigate and find what the user would be looking for if they’ve never been there before. If they can’t immediately find what that they need or don’t trust the site due to poor or out-dated design, they are not likely to convert.
Each main page on the site will also need to have specific call-to-action. It will increase conversions and help users get to what they’re after quickly.
A custom 404 page will ensure if a visitor lands on a page that is missing, they have options to find what they’re looking for. It should include a link to the homepage at the very least.
Users love images and videos, you’ll want to see a good balance of them on the site.
Section 6: Site Speed
This is the first section in the audit checklist that covers any technical SEO issues.
The goal is 2 seconds or less.
You’re welcome to use any tool you like as long as you get all the information you need to assess the performance of the site. I personally recommend GTmetrix or webpagetest.org. In this case, we’ll use GTmetrix.
Aside from an under 2 second load time, ideally, the page size should be under 1MB and the requests under 50 wherever possible. That’s how I determine whether those sections are good enough or whether there is room for improvement.
Since this depends on a lot of variables and the results differ each time you run it, it’s best to run it at least 3 times and come up with an average.
The page speed tab below the scores will let you know what will need to be done to improve page speed. Expand each problem area to find out which URLs are contributing to the issue. You’ll often find some third-party scripts which can’t be optimized from your server. In those cases, they will eventually need to be loaded asynchronously or the loading deferred to the end of the page.
Only a few of the most common issue have been added to the template, but it’s enough to get a good idea of the work needing to be done.
By checking the waterfall tab, you can determine how long it takes for the server to send back a response as well as a break down of each request. They can also be expanded to get more information.
It’s a good idea to look at all the requests and possibly take note of anything that really stands out, but you’ll only need the first request for this template. The goal is under 500ms (half a second). Much more than that and you may want to suggest or consider a different host. Enter the value into the template in seconds. In this example, 450ms would be marked down as .45. If you need another host to improve your sitespeed, I recommend using SiteGround.
The completed section would look like this image using the example data above. Granted, this site has already been optimized and you’re not likely to see the same results on most sites you will audit.
Site speed can be a complex animal, but I wanted to keep it simple for the purpose of this learning template and to cover the tasks that typically have the greatest impact while still remaining somewhat digestible.
Section 7: Site Essentials
There are certain things that every site should have whether it’s a direct ranking factor or not. Both Google and users expect to see each one of these on your site.
- SSL certificate: Trust from your users is crucial. Seeing https in the address bar makes people feel like they are in a safe place, not to mention it is a ranking factor. As a website owner, if you are collecting any data – even an email – you must have an SSL on your site.
- Redirects to preferred version: If you type into the browser address bar each of the following versions of the website address, http non-www, http www, https non-www, https www, all versions should redirect to a single preferred version. Furthermore, they should all have only one redirect to the final URL. You can use the “Redirect Mapper” button on the template to check how may redirects are taking place from each version.
- Robots.txt errors or problems: This one takes a bit of skill in understanding how this file works. This file tells bots that visit your site where they can and cannot go. You don’t want any important pages being blocked in this file since it will prevent them from being indexed and you’ll want to make sure all unnecessary pages are being blocked with the disallow directive. You can use the robots.txt testing tool from Google to check any pages you’re not sure about.
- Sitemap.xml: You can usually find this file by adding /sitemap.xml at the end of the domain name, but the URL can vary. This file gives search engines a clue that you consider the pages in the XML sitemap to be good-quality landing pages, worthy of indexation. They should not include 301s or 404s – only 200 status code pages should be in the sitemap.
- Favicon: Although there are no direct effects for SEO, it is necessary for brand recognition, credibility and trust, bookmarking, and for easy recognition in the browser tabs.
- Mobile friendly: In 2019, Google introduced mobile-first indexing. Since then, having a responsive design website has become a really big deal. It should be fast and look great on every device, especially mobile phones.
- About page: This is one of the most visited and important pages on your website. It’s an opportunity for the users to get to know the company and see if they can connect with their story. I can build trust and confidence in your brand. It needs to be unique to the brand and personal, not professional generic jargon.
- Contact page: I think this one is pretty obvious. It should include ALL of your contact information as well as a convenient form for users to contact you.
- HTML sitemap: HTML sitemaps are created for users to navigate your website easier making everything only 2 clicks away from the homepage. Some SEOs believe it’s the best way to distribute link juice efficiently throughout your site.
Section 8: Indexation
It’s crucial to understand which pages are showing up in the search results and which aren’t. It is just as crucial to know why they are or aren’t, what should be indexing, and what shouldn’t be indexing.
You will be consulting the Screaming Frog crawl and the search results for this section.
Input the search operator “site:example.com” into the browser’s address bar to get a list of all the pages indexing.
You’ll want to take a note of the number of results and compare it to how many pages you end up with in the crawl (excluding blocked and noindex pages). Take a note as well of any pages in the crawl that are blocked by robots.txt or noindexed that should not be.
Going through this section of the audit template requires checking for specific problems related to low-quality pages in the search results. Having too many low-quality pages indexing can be hindering the performance of the higher-quality pages.
What Is A Low-Quality Page?
A low-quality page is any page with thin content, pages without an important dedicated purpose for the user, duplicates or near-duplicates, account or thank you pages, pages that are too outdated and may need to be freshened up, et cetera.
Again you can find these through the search results by using the search operator mentioned above and/or through the Screaming Frog crawl. The template explains each of the tasks clearly and should be easy to follow.
Section 9: CTR Optimization
This is somewhat connected with the last section, in that it requires checking the title tags and descriptions that are indexing. Organic click-through rates (CTR) is the ratio of clicks (on your site link) to impressions (how many times the page shows up in the search results). You can check the CTR of your pages, and for specific queries, in Google Search Console.
The purpose of this section, however, is to determine if the title tags and descriptions are written well enough to entice users to click on it over the competitor’s result.
Without getting into search volume or clicks to the page to determine whether it is the right title for the page, you can tell if titles are generally bad or generally good at a glance. In nearly all cases, you’ll find enough bad ones to warrant optimization.
What Un-optimized Results May Look Like
While some of the descriptions above have the right idea (for the most part), the page titles are awful. If the titles are too vague, the keyword intent could be completely wrong as in this case. They lack any specifics, lack correct intent, don’t include power words, qualifiers, parentheses, numbers, or anything else to help them stand out against the competitors. These are the worst kind of titles.
What Optimized Results May Look Like
The above title tags and descriptions check most of the boxes that make good titles and descriptions. Though some improvements could be made, they are descriptive enough to cover intent, contain qualifiers, and one has a number. The descriptions have a call-to-action, utilize power words (perfect, unique, timeless, free), and a couple include larger incentives such as free shipping.
Checking The Remaining CTR Optimizations
Although the meta description was deprecated as a ranking factor in 2009, it is still important for click-through rates. The meta description should be compelling and should often include a call to action. Exact and partial match keywords should be used as well. When keywords are used, Google will bold them in the search results which may capture more attention from searchers.
Review snippets are stars that may show up in the search results for some of the web pages on the site if the correct schema markup has been implemented.
Review snippets can be checked using the search operator ‘site:example.com’ and looking through the results. Video results, featured snippets and other rich results are best checked using ahrefs (site explorer>organic keywords>SERP features dropdown> select features to check).
Section 10: Site Architecture
To complete this portion, you’ll want to consult your Screaming Frog crawl. Click on the structure button shown on the right.
is better than
Search friendly URLs will contain the focus keyword for the page and typically contain no more than 5 words, with some exceptions made in eCommerce product situations.
WORD OF WARNING
Modifying site structure is something you’ll need to be extra careful about if the site is getting good traffic. Changing the URLs or URL structure may cause the pages or site to lose traffic. Even if you take all the proper precautions (setting up 301 redirects), there’s a chance you could still lose a portion of the traffic to the page. Exercise with caution and always check traffic numbers before changing URLs.
Breadcrumbs not only allow users to track where they’re going and where they’ve been, but it also helps search engines understand the website hierarchy. Example on the right.
Effective site search means better user experience, which generally produces higher conversions. Users need to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.
It’s also invaluable to have the data of what people are searching for on the site. It can help you optimize the site around what users search for most. You’ll want to enable site search in Google Analytics to take advantage of the information it provides.
Section 11: General Technical Issues
You should have run your Screaming Frog crawl at this point. All of the information in this section will come from that crawl, so the template should be fairly straight forward on this part aside from a few exceptions which are mentioned below.
An internal link is a hyperlink pointing to the same domain as the link source. So, it is a link from one page to another on the same site. Though this could include menu navigation, we are mostly referring to contextual linking in this case, which are links in the body text of each page. The reason for the importance of these is:
- They help spread link equity throughout the website
- Help users navigate the website
- Help define site structure and hierarchy for the site
While not near as important as internal linking, it’s often good to link out to related sites to help relevance to the site as well as helping visitors get the information they need. Linking to any necessary resources or statistics you may quote on your site ensures you are displaying accurate, relevant information, and attributing credit where it is due.
Orphan pages are any web pages on the site that are not linked to by any other page on the website. This makes is difficult for search engines to find and index the pages as well as making it difficult for users to find them.
If they are important, they need to be connected to the rest of the site through navigation or by linking to it from a relevant page. If they are not important, they may need to be removed.
Ensuring you locate all of the orphan pages sometimes takes a few extra steps. There is an easy to follow tutorial on how to find orphan pages by Screaming Frog that will help you locate them.
The Remaining General Technical Issues
As mentioned earlier, the rest of this section should be self-explanatory. In Screaming Frog, you just follow the right hand column and click on each one as it comes up to collect the information you need.
Section 12: Content
Besides intentionally copying content onto other pages for filler, duplicate content can be created in a number of other ways including:
- Domain version variations accessible
- www vs non-www
- https vs http
- Common URL variations
- URL parameters
- Analytic click tracking parameters
- Product or category sorting parameters popular in ecommerce
- Cost, color, size filter parameters popular in ecommerce
- Session IDs stored in URLs
- Comment pagination
- Printer-friendly versions of pages
Why Is Duplicate Content Bad For SEO?
- Link equity dilution
- Poor user experience
- Search engines don’t know which one to show and are forced to choose
- Limits the ability for any of the duplicate pages to be shown
- Increases index bloat
- May index the ugly page you don’t want shown
Thin Content Pages
Pages that don’t have much content typically don’t provide much value to users, and in turn, search engines won’t rank them. If the client has no plans to improve the quality of the pages, it’s best to keep them out of the index by blocking them or adding a meta robots tag to direct crawlers not to index or crawl them.
Font size is recommended to be 16px or greater for the best user experience. A little lower may not hurt, but it’s something to take notice of. Although it’s unclear if it is a ranking factor, Google’s own audit tool Lighthouse ranks it, so it would be safe to treat it as one.
Every site should have a content marketing plan for a number of reasons including, it can increase the authority of the website (draws links), it increases brand authority, it can improve rankings on the rest of the site, increases website traffic, higher visibility, and more opportunity for leads and conversions by funneling that traffic to your money pages.
Section 13: Structured Data
Structured data refers to implementing markup code on a page to provide additional details about the page’s content or the brand to search engines. Implementing some forms of structured data can result in an opportunity to take advantage of special search results features from search engines like Google. In this context, we are specifically referring to schema markup.
JSON-LD is Google’s preferred version of schema markup, so use it anywhere you can.
The Organization schema type should only be used on your home page.
It’s purpose is to help build the information required to acquire a knowledge graph in the search results. The information you provide should include the logo, contact info, available hours, location, social media urls, etc. As with all schema markup, you are not guaranteed to receive the feature it’s intended to produce.
There are more specific types of organization markup that should be researched to see if there is one that better suites your business. You can look these up on schema.org
All JSON-LD schema should go in the head tag of the page.